Significant Dates in the History of Cuban Railroads by Alberto Sanchez de Bustamante y Parajon Jr

Photo from Wikimedia Commons



The Economic Society of Friends of the Country (Sociedad Económica deAmigos del País) is founded.


Establishment of the Royal Consulate of Agriculture and Trade in Havana, with the purpose of promoting agriculture and commerce through, among other means, the construction and improvement of roads, channels and irrigation.


Establishment of the Royal Board of Railroads.


The Board of Roads recommends the construction of a railroad from Havana to Güines.


Establishment of the Royal Board of Economic Development (Junta de Fomento), chaired by Claudio Martínez de Pinillos, Count of Villanueva and Quartermaster of Havana.


Benjamin Wright, who had been Chief Engineer of the Erie Canal, submits a report and proposal regarding the construction of the railroad line.


The Queen of Spain approves the project. It begins the process of competitive bids, construction and acquisition of equipment.

April 1837

The first locomotives, designed by Stephenson and built by Braithwaite, arrived in Havana. Works are interrupted on account of disagreements with Lieutenant Governor Tacón. Changes are introduced in the proposed route of the future railroad.

November 1837

The Havana-Bejucal railroad service begins operating. A franchise is granted to build the railroad between Puerto Príncipe (Camagüey) and Nuevitas. The Cárdenas-Soledad de Bemba Railroad Company is chartered.


It begins the construction of the Puerto Príncipe (Camagüey)-Nuevitas Railroad. Construction of the Villanueva Station is completed


Permission is granted to negotiate the Cienfuegos-Villa Clara Railroad.


The Matanzas Railroad begins operating.


The Júcaro Railroad begins operating.

El Cobre Railroad begins operating.


It begins the construction of the Cienfuegos-Villa Clara Railroad. Construction would not be finished until 1860.


Merger of the Júcaro Railroad and the Cárdenas Railroad companies.


Construction of a railroad to connect Trinidad with inland regions begins to be considered.


The Sagua Railroad reaches to Cruces, a junction point with other railroad lines. Application to get permit for the construction of a railroad between Santiago de Cuba and El Cristo, with branch lines to Sabanilla, Maroto and San Luis. Its tentative name was Ferrocarril de Sabanilla y Maroto. Its full completion would take a decade. 


It begins the construction of the Bay of Havana Railroad, connecting with the Regla piers. The Havana Western Railroad was established.


Establishment of the Marianao Railroad.


The Bay of Havana Railroad fell under British control.


The Marianao Railroad fell under British control.


Construction of the Gibara-Holguín Railroad is approved. It was completed in 1894.


Merger of Caminos de Hierro and the Bay of Havana Railroad.


Ferrocarriles Unidos de La Habana y Almacenes de Regla (United Railroads of Havana and Regla’s Warehouses) merge. This company would encompass both of these entities.


British investors acquire the United Railroad of Caibarién, the Sagua Railroad and the Cienfuegos-Villa Clara Railroad, all of these under the name of “Cuban Central Railways”.

William Van Horne invests money in the Havana Electric Company, following the advice of Gonzalo de Quesada and Percival Farquhar. Worried on account of rumors about irregularities in the financial management [of railroads], Van Horne decides to visit Cuba. 


Van Horne meets with Lieutenant General Leonard Wood and becomes interested in the project of building a “central railroad”. The Cuba Company is formally chartered. Initial studies are conducted to determine the best route. Cuba Company acquires the Sabanilla and Maroto Railroad.


It begins the construction of the Cuba Railroad (Ferrocarril de Cuba).

December 1902

The Cuba Railroad begins operating.


Establishment of Havana Central Railways (with U.S. capital).


Ferrocarriles Unidos (United Railroads) acquires control of the Havana Central Railways.


Barter of lands of the Villanueva Station for lands of the Arsenal (Depot). This made possible the construction of the Central Railroad Station and the National Capitol Building. Creation of the Havana Terminal Road, under control of British capital, but also including some U.S. capital.


Ferrocarriles Unidos (United Railroads) acquires control of the Havana Western Railroad.


Ferrocarriles Unidos (United Railroads) acquires Cuba Central Railways. Regino Truffin and Col. José Miguel Tarafa join forces to create a new company: Ferrocarril de la Costa Norte y del Sur (Railroad of the Northern and Southern Coasts), with the purpose of connecting Caibarién, Nuevitas, Morón and Santa Cruz del Sur, including the old La Trocha Military Railroad.

Establishment of the Ferrocarril de Guantánamo y Occidente (Guantánamo and Western Railroad). The main stockholder is the banker Antonio San Miguel, also owner of sugar cane plantations.


The Tarafa & Truffin Company is chartered as Ferrocarril del Norte de Cuba (Northern Cuba Railroad). This was partially funded through the sale of the Pastelillo port facilities to the Cuba Railroad.


The Northern Cuba Railroad begins operating.


The Cuba Railroad and the Northern Cuba Railroad agree on a merger. As a result of this, Ferrocarriles Consolidados de Cuba (Cuba Consolidated Railways) is formally chartered in 1925, although keeping the identity of their respective lines. The line of the Guantánamo and Western Railroad is completed. It connects at San Luis with the Cuba Railroad.


World financial crisis. Antonio San Miguel begins to purchase shares of Ferrocarriles Consolidados, up to the point of securing control of its Board of Directors. San Miguel passed away in 1940 and Francisco Bartés becomes Chairman of the Board.


Julio Lobo, Esteban Caicedo and other major Cuban investors acquire a substantial share of the stock of Ferrocarriles Consolidados.


The Government decrees the intervention of the Havana United Railroads and appoints a Comptroller.


The World Bank recommends the merger of the Havana United Railroads and the Cuba Consolidated Railways, as well as the nationalization of these companies.


The Government acquires the Havana United Railroads and begins to restructure and modernize the company. These steps proved to be highly controversial.


The Cuban Government refuses to grant operational subsidies and credit guarantees to Ferrocarriles Consolidados, thus forcing the dissolution of the company and its nationalization.


Merger of all public railroads, under the name of Ferrocarriles de Cuba. Several modernization projects were started, including the construction of a new central line and the acquisition of rolling and mobile stock and equipment, mainly from the Soviet bloc. Modernization projects are abandoned when the Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev suspended subsidies to Cuba